Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Search to Belong ... Day 23

In the purple chair

I remember the day she walked into the TH. Maharani, surrounded by her courtiers!, I thought to myself. She was perfectly put together from the top of her head to the soles of her shoes. And she was accompanied by a phalanx of handsome men, albeit one still in a car seat ...

Chai, Italian sodas, pear quiche, cauliflower soup, and toasted tomato and brie sandwiches were quickly ordered and consumed, followed up with mango mousse and strawberry cheesecake. By the time they were done eating I had fallen for the whole family.

But there was something about her - something in her liquid nutmeg-and-clove eyes - that drew me to her. She was the centre of her family unit, it was clear to see. Her boys - all four of them! - revolved around her like planets around the sun. She was cheerful, positive, energetic and yet serene all at the same time. However, a faint note of reticence in those eyes silently contradicted her happy demeanour.

(Photo by her friend Christine Debruyn)
She and her husband came back the next week, for a quiet chai and a break from the routine. We had a bit of a chance to get acquainted. They met Dad and it turned out that some of their relatives live just up the street from where the College is in Richmond Town, Bangalore ...

Soon after that, Dad, BA and I were invited to their home for dinner. She had enquired some time earlier, and in completely another context, what food we liked; when we were seated at the dinner table, we discovered that she had made EVERYTHING I had told her we liked!

Feast fit for a maharajah!

Dad and Sameer
After dinner, with the dishes done and Dad and her husband chatting in comfortable chairs and BA playing with her new friend, the engaging Sameer - whose very name means entertaining companion! - I mentioned about a friend who sometimes struggled with the fact that she is adopted. And with that, she told me a little bit about her life.

She is a daughter much loved by her parents, whom when she was growing up she called aunt and uncle. You see, she was given as a baby by her paternal grandmother to her father's childless elder brother and his wife, to be raised as their own. Her grandmother had declared that the next baby born into the family would be given thus. 

The next baby was her. 

She had four parents who loved her desperately and wanted only what was best for her.

From a tiny child she knew something was a little bit askew - she felt it deep inside her - but she couldn't get answers. No one would talk to her about it. She watched her siblings, whom she called cousins, play together and bond together and she felt like she should be one of them; but, in deference to her parents - all four of them - she held herself back.

Slowly, as she grew older, the story started to trickle out. The more she learnt, the more untenable her situation seemed to become.

All her young life she felt torn - to whom did she belong? She loved her parents deeply, and they adored her; but yet there was a sometimes overwhelming pull just to be near her "aunt," to be embraced by her.

A girl with less courage might have collapsed. A girl with less depth of compassion might have turned the household and family upside down by demanding her rights. A girl with less strength of character might have imploded.

She did none of these things. Instead, she tended to her own bruised heart, building it up and constructing a fortress of protection around herself. Somehow, with preternatural maturity, she managed to forge deep relationships with both her mothers and fathers: Amma and Abba, Mummy and Papa. She walked a tightrope and never misstepped. But at the core, in the deepest recesses of her soul, she remained cautious. She guarded her heart.

She and her prince
He came into her life at the most opportune time. Here was someone who, she said, "understood completely what I had gone through." Here was a man with wisdom, kindness, integrity. Here was someone she could trust with her heart and her life.

Saad, Asad and Sameer -
outstanding young men ...
Now they have their own family - the Blessed/Happy One, the Lion, and the Entertaining Companion. Their boys' names were carefully selected to reflect how deeply they are loved ... although the eldest had a big hand in the naming of the youngest!

She has drawn her family into a tight, strong unit. Every day she leaves her boys with no doubt as to how much she loves them. She knows their temperaments. She applauds their strengths and buttresses up their weaknesses. She seeks their best at all times. She has built a home of security and understanding, of beauty and grace.
Welcome home! (taken from her FB page)

What she is learning is that her upbringing, though impossibly difficult, has stretched and grown her heart in ways most people can only long for. Because of the way she chose to respond to the life she was given, she is now able to look past what might appear at the surface to be unjust and to find the reasons behind actions that appear at first blush to be incomprehensible. She can respond to difficult situations without resentment or suspicion. She can include diverse people within the circle of her friends and make each one of them feel like they are unique. She is not afraid to ask the tough questions because she is able to take the tough answers in stride. She is generous with her time and her care. She knows what is appropriate in any situation, because she has had to deal with rejection, confusion, anger, anguish, shame, acceptance, love, not to mention varied cultures and climates. She has had to learn to trust. Most of all, she is learning to let go of the pain and the anxiety that for so long constricted her; and as a result she is revelling in new-found freedom to love all of these parents she holds so dear. "After hiding the real relationships for so long, I know how to value them now," she marvels.

Amma and her girl
Papa, reading a poem
he composed upon
seeing the mountains
Mummy and her girl

One of the greatest moments of her life came just three years ago. Her Abba was dying, and she was alone with him in the ICU. She had flown from England to India and that day - for the first time ever, in her life - he talked to her about their difficult family situation. 

She had the gift of that one day ("we managed a few laughs") and she was given one more, priceless, gift: she was the person who was with him when he drew his last breath. "He didn't have to say how much he loved me ... [my being able to be with him for that precious day] was enough indication from God."

The day you walked into the TH for the first time was a memorable one for me. I am so grateful to God for causing you to move to Three Hills and for permitting our paths to cross. We in the town love you. We in the TH love you. And every time I walk out of the front door and see the sign you gave us on the wall over the front door, I thank God - Who also loves you with an everlasting love - for you. 

For now, here is where you belong, my  छोटी-छोटी बहन. 

(Photo by Christine Debruyn)
Thank you for trusting me with your story, and for allowing me to tell it. I love you dearly.


  1. What a breathtaking (while heartbreaking) story of grace. So many of your stories this month have spoken to my heart Karyn. Thanks for sharing all these glimpses from within the beloved Tea House and by doing so, sharing glimpses of your own beautiful heart.

  2. Beautiful story, Karyn. And Zeba is a beautiful lady. How thankful we are for her and her husband.

  3. Karyn you made me have discovered me my friend n I never realised that much was hiding inside me for so feels like somebody has open the barriers and the river is flowing smoothly with no more storms and rough waves...thank you for this honor to be on one of blogs in this thanksgiving are a beautiful person yourself n that's the reason why you see beauty everywhere ...we all have some difficult times in our lifes but the key is life is not about being afraid of the's all about dancing in the rain....sending my love

    1. Dear Zeba, an honour it has been to read about you, Karyn's beautiful insight writing about my friend -- whom I have yet to meet. May I say this last sentence "..we all have some difficult times in our lives but the key is not about being afraid of the storm.. it's all about dancing in the rain" this. This spoke volumes to my own heart - thank you.

  4. Wonderfully written, and you have captured Zeba perfectly..."cheerful, positive, energetic and yet serene all at the same time." Might I suggest a barter arrangement? Her aloo ke parathe for your tea(s)! When I visit, I will happily volunteer my tasting services to make sure it's a fair arrangement for all concerned.

    Make sure you play a game of Scrabble with Navaid before writing about him!!!! :-)

    1. Her cooking is out of this world - when I was over there last I had some of the lightest chappatis ever! Every now and then I have a "guest chef" in the TH. Tell me when you're coming to visit, and I'll ask her to guest chef that weekend - aloo ke parathe is one of my faves ...

      As for Scrabble, I used to play every night with my grandparents when I stayed with them. But that was decades ago - I'm pretty sure Navaid can find a better challenge almost anywhere else!

  5. Beautifully written,about a wonderful person,my very very old friend,Zeba.Many of my earliest memories are coloured with the time spent together,......playing for endless hours,spending time at each other's house ( day spend),playing pranks...sometimes naughty sometimes innocent...!!
    May be little,if not completely,but we did and could understand the dilemma of the situation.Though,it was never talked about or discussed.
    You seemed to be at peace on the outside,cheerful,smiling,happy....Bravo!!

  6. Beautiful..very moving and amazingly written.. She sure is every adjective used to describe her and much more. I hope I can be like her when I am her age,and I know that is not compliment enough.
    Also, it takes a great deal of goodness inside of onself to be able to see it in others. I am sure the author has a golden heart herself.

  7. Its an overwhelming and insightful, being a cousin can only understand Zeba, that ive read this brilliant description..despite the ups and downs, Zeba "appi" always keeps that thousand watt smile intact..She is a cheeerful, extremely lovable and caring sister..

  8. Beautifully written and emotionally moving too.Salutations to the author for such a lovely description of a beautiful person..I must compliment her judgement and profound observations.Zeba baji as kids,growing up, we have looked up to you as an inspiration definition of "Perfection" has always been you.As someone rightly said before me,your smile has perhaps hidden many a tears..a quality I aspire to cultivate.May God bless you abundantly today and tomorrow too for if there is one such person we all would like to see happy,its You.

  9. Karyn.....what a lovely piece you have written about Zaiba have described her beautifully!She is my sister...she means the world to me but I'm happy that she has such good friends who know her so well and who care about her so much!

  10. Beautifully written for a wonderful person...


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